NEW YORK Retailers like Sears and JC Penney are going full throttle on back-to-school campaigns, but a new study published by The NPD Group finds that parents are in no rush to buy school supplies for their children, nor do they expect to increase spending on the category.
In its survey of back-to-school consumers, the market research firm recorded a 5 percent decrease in the number of consumers who either haven't started or don't intend to spend on back-to-school shopping. Only 6 percent of parents have begun back-to-school preparations, the study said. Additionally, parents of school-aged children also plan to "spend less" on back-to-school shopping (decrease of 9 points), though the cutback isn't as severe as last year.
"Last year, we had an even bigger drop-off in spending intentions," said NPD's chief industry analyst, Marshal Cohen, in a statement. Though consumers are still pinching pennies, "the 'not so bad news' is that back-to-school is in line with the current trend of consumers cutting back but not out.'"
The results come as marketers like Sears link back-to-school promotions with celebrity tie-in's, in an effort to get parents and their kids pumped about back-to-school spending. Selena Gomez, who plays Alex Russo on the Disney Channel sitcom Wizards of Waverly Place, now appears in a Sears commercial soliciting nominations for its "Air Band Casting Call." Sears tapped the 17-year-old teen star to promote its fashion line.
The latter is among the categories that will likely face a slump in this year's back-to-school retail season, NPD found. School supplies (77 percent) topped the list of this year's back-to-school spending priorities. Spending on apparel was 52 percent, down from 60 percent last year.
When it comes to back-to-school shopping, parents are really looking for products that provide "value," the report said. "Required by school" was the second highest factor, followed by "replacement," "child wanted it," "trendy/fashionable" and "influenced by friends." Office supply, mass merchant, discounter and chain stores are likely to experience greater amounts of traffic, with department stores experiencing a 4 percent foot traffic decline versus last year.
Retailers and industry experts will be closely assessing the outcome of this year's back-to-school push as an indicator to Thanksgiving and holiday sales growth. "So far, we are seeing continued caution when it comes to spending. Consumers are clearly putting need over desire," Cohen said in the report.
Nielsen Business Media